As I mentioned in the last blog, I love shooting on the streets in Italy. As part of one of our trips to Italy in the early 1990’s Belinda and I decided to visit some of the smaller cities like Lucca, Bologna, Parma and Verona. It was the same trip that found me dragging along my big, chrome Hasselblad 500 CM and my 100mm Planar lens as my street shooting camera. While all of the cities had their own charming attributes it was Verona that stole my heart because of their wonderfully cynical tourist board. They took the story of Romeo and Juliet and ran with it. Right down to designating a small house and courtyard as the house of Juliet. Tourist would go there to see where the star crossed lovers lived. And the tourist board indulged them by also installing a telephone like contraption that, for a few coins, would tell you the brief story of the feuding houses in one of four different languages. I noticed that the photo which graced the machine was from the Zefferelli version of the Romeo and Juliet movie. So appropriate!
Of course we made the pilgrimage to the house. How could we come all this way and not see it? We saw a few adventurous tourists from other countries but we also saw plenty of Italians. I saw this man listening intently to the taped message and couldn’t resist photographing him. I printed the images and put them in a show a few years later. Most people took a cursory look and decided that the man was some sort of shady character doing some sort of shady and illegal deal over the phone. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was just a local tourist, eager to hear all the news.
I have many images in my files of people on phones. How was I to know back then that all the phone booths would eventually disappear only to be replaced by the ubiquitous cellphone? The phone booth now seems like a romantic and chancy part of a past life. The cellphone like an empty appliance. C’est la vie.